Sheep in South Dakota, SD Digital Archives

The results of another random foray into South Dakota State Archives’ resources after thinking about suffragist Rose Bower speaking on the Fourth of July at Lodge Pole Butte surrounded by grazing sheep in 1914. [See also: Snow in South Dakota, SD Digital Archives.]

First, from the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office’s historic context, Thomas Witt et al. The History of Agriculture in South Dakota: Components for a Fully Developed Historic Context (July 2013):
Sheep ranching took hold in the Black Hills in the mid-1880s. Cattle and sheep ranching expanded in western South Dakota counties after the federal government divided and reduced the Great Sioux Reservation to expand Euro-American settlement [p.13]. Sheep barns may have been one or two stories; the second story often used as a hay loft. They were characterized by large, open spaces (no stalls), good ventilation, ideally with a “grain alley” for feeding during inclement weather, and perhaps hay and grain racks [p.59-60]. Wool warehouses, where sheep farmers could bring their wool for grading and weighing, were located in urban centers along rail lines, east of the Missouri River. The South Dakota Cooperative operated warehouses out of Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Huron, Mitchell, and Belle Fourche [p.99].

Thomas Witt et al. The History of Agriculture in South Dakota: Components for a Fully Developed Historic Context (July 2013), 60.
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From the 2018 SDSHS Conference, part 2

Last week I attended the 2018 annual conference of the South Dakota State Historical Society, organized by the staff of its Archaeological Research Center (ARC), and held at the Ramkota hotel in Rapid City.  These are my notes from the presentations (day 2) – they’re not exhaustive, but hopefully useful to someone besides myself.  Towards the end of the second day, I fell a bit short in my note-taking because of conference-fatigue, so pardon any shortcomings.

If any of the presenters find this page and catch mistakes I’ve made, please let me know. Continue reading

Snow in South Dakota, SD Digital Archives

Outside my window is a lot of snow that’s fallen in the last week, so I was curious what South Dakota State Archives’ digital archives had for the best and most interesting historic photographs of snow and snow removal in South Dakota.  There were nearly 1,600 results in a search for the word ‘snow’ (although admittedly, many are Preservation Office photographs of historic buildings that just happened to have been taken in the winter).

Snow is a big part of life on the Plains–beautiful, dangerous, and apparently a popular photography subject over the years.  I do know it generally makes for good building photographs — no leaves on nearby trees to block anything and a high contrast background.  From these historic photos, it looked like heavy snowfalls could be fun in their way, but they also required hard work and ingenuity to clear travel routes.  And of course we have our share of winter sports, especially in the recreation and ski areas of the Black Hills.

Here is a list of my favorites from the state digital archives…

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New Book!

Just arrived today!  A new book “Conservation on the Northern Plains: New Perspectives,” edited by Anthony J. Amato, and published by the Center for Western Studies, arrived in the mail.  I’ve only read as far as the table of contents, but am excited to get into some regional environmental history!

It’s so shiny…

 

Family Ties: Girls Trip to the Black Hills

I didn’t grow up in South Dakota, but was visiting family recently and had an unanticipated run-in with South Dakota history.  We were sitting around their kitchen table and I was listening to stories of all the old photos–every visit I see some of the same photos but there also seems to be something new.

One of my grandparents (well, a step-grandparent) shared a small album that their mother had put together after visiting South Dakota’s Black Hills with her friends in the early 1930s.  It was right at the start of the period when the highways to and within the Black Hills, as well as tourist facilities, were being improved and the ‘common folk’ could better access the area for vacation.  Needles Highway had been built in the 1920s, but Mount Rushmore would have still been in progress during their trip.  The cell phone photos I quickly grabbed of the unlabeled album aren’t great, but it made such an impact that I thought I’d share them anyway.  It’s amazing the feeling you get when you find a personal connection to interesting history.

Professionally, I think it’s fascinating that this young woman from a farm in Minnesota first, went on a vacation out to the Black Hills, but second, that she went with four female friends.  I would have guessed it to be unusual for five young women to travel that far alone in the 1930s, but maybe I need to check my preconceptions.  I wonder if they were school friends, or related?  Also: why they went, how long they were there, where they stayed, how they made travel arrangements, whether they had car trouble, what camera they had brought…

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Bentonite in South Dakota

The other day, there were some temporary repairs done to my workplace with Bentogrout.  Curious about what that was, I asked around and did some research.  It’s made of Bentonite, a clay-like mineral that expands with water, so the grout is typically injected into the ground along the exterior foundation wall so it will expand into and seal hairline cracks in the foundation.  It also has a South Dakota history…

Bentonite was first identified by Americans stationed at Fort Benton, Montana, a fur-trading post on the  Upper Missouri River, where traders used it for packing cracks in horse hoofs and for washing themselves.  They called the source sites “soap holes,” where rainwater hit surface deposits of bentonite [Davis and Vacher, 1].  There were reports of Hudson Bay traders using it for washing in Canada before 1873 as well [Davis and Vacher, 1].  It was officially named in the late-nineteenth century by Wyoming state geologist, Wilbur C. Knight, who had initially called in taylorite until realizing it was a duplicate [WSGS Summary Report, 1].  The first commercial shipment of the mineral was made in 1888 by Wyoming quarry owner William Taylor [WSGS Summary Report, 1; Davis and Vacher, 2].  Production continued, but there were jumps in the 1920s and the 1940s as available processing plants and market demand caused growth in the industry.

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John Robertson and Fruit-growing in the Black Hills

Since working on a project about the Gurney Seed and Nursery Company in Yankton, I’ve been digging into the history of horticulture in South Dakota as I have opportunity.  In research searches about the phenomenon of farmers’ institutes, I hit a point of cross-over in John Robertson.  Robertson had a fruit orchard nursery in Hot Springs and was one of the few prominent players in the field of horticulture in early South Dakota from the Black Hills region.  [Fred Noerenberg had another well-known orchard at Cascade Springs.]

John Stevenston Robertson (1866–1937) was born in Ohio to Scottish-immigrant parents and migrated with his family to Nebraska.  He moved to Fall River County in March 1889 and homesteaded land in the Erskine/Minnekahta area near Hot Springs in June 1892.  He planted his first apple trees in 1896 and eventually had a twenty-acre orchard that included over a hundred varieties of apples (at various times), as well as grapes, plums, pears, cherries, currants, gooseberries raspberries, strawberries, pansies, corn and small grains, and asparagus.  He experimented with different varieties and growing techniques to find what was best adapted to the climate and terrain.  He cooperated with horticulturalists across the state, particularly N.E. Hansen and his students at the Agricultural College in Brookings, to test developed varieties and share results.  He also sold some “limited” nursery stock of dependable varieties.

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